The Tigers’ hopes at becoming the first two-loss team to make it to the College Football Playoff were shattered in College Station on Saturday night as the Texas A&M Aggies stunned LSU, handing it a 38-23 loss as coach Brian Kelly’s team finishes his debut campaign at 9-3.
LSU struggled defensively, allowing big days to running back Devon Achane and receivers Moose Muhammad III and Evan Stewart. The offense was fairly efficient, but its one turnover proved costly as a fumble from Jayden Daniels was returned for a touchdown.
Even with the loss, the Tigers will represent the West Division in the SEC Championship against Georgia on Saturday, but their hopes of joining the final four have been dashed.
Here’s what Kelly said after the loss.
“Obviously, disappointed… our players, you know, understand each and every week in this league, you’re going to be challenged. We were challenged by a team that played very well today. Their players made plays. We didn’t make some of the plays we had normally made. We just weren’t our best today. I’d like to give you a reason why we weren’t, but we just weren’t our best today and we needed to be better. I don’t want to minimize it. As I said, we’re all very disappointed. We very much wanted to finish strong and that didn’t happen. I think, again, I could break down the game in so many different ways, but it just wasn’t our best and our best was needed today and we didn’t have it.”
On run defense's struggles
“We didn’t do our job as coaches. We didn’t do our job as players. We didn’t get our job done today. I wish I could give a specific answer, but I’d have to bring in so many different things that happened defensively. We didn’t get our jobs done and I’m very disappointed because of that.”
On two-point conversion attempt in fourth quarter
“The analytics say go for two, so if you don’t get it there you have another chance to go for two and have the opportunity to tie the game up.”
On message to locker room ahead of SEC Championship
“This is hard. And they’ve been great all year and have done incredible things. They’ve changed everything that they’ve known in terms of their routine and the way they think and their habits. You have to do it consistently, you know? You can’t just rely on talent. Talent’s got to make plays. Traits have got to be present every single day, and when you flip switch to performance, you’ve got to bring those with you. For some reason, we were off today. And it’s my job to get this team prepared. And I didn’t get them prepared the way they needed to be… I’m disappointed in that.”
On Texas A&M's success on third down
“What was the reason? We didn’t do our job. We were not very good at getting off the field, executing, bending people back. I mean, we were off today. This was not a team you’d normally seen during the year, and I can’t give you a great answer. We didn’t make the plays we normally make. We didn’t have the same fire we normally have. And that falls on my shoulders, too. I’ve got to get the team ready, and I obviously didn’t do a very good job.”
On Jayden Daniels' fumble
“I think there were some momentum swings. We came out in the second half, got the quick stops and we got the score, I thought we got the thing back in order, but again, it was one of those things where you wish you could’ve done it all over again in terms of what happened in that situation. Again, it what it is. The ball comes out, it’s a huge play. The momentum swing, I don’t know that we ever really recovered from it, quite frankly.”
On success from Evan Stewart, other Aggies weapons
“He’s a talented player. We have a job to do, and that’s take away the inside and we need to do a better job coaching and we need to do a better job playing in that situation. Their good players played really, really well. Achane was outstanding. His cutback ability. He was very difficult today. Muhammad. Stewart. Quarterback played well. Their best players played to their level today. There was great energy in the stadium and we didn’t match it. Our best players needed to make great plays, and we fell short in that area.”
On Jayden Daniels' health
“He’s got an ankle, the ankle was the last one. The first hit I think he bounced back from it, the second hit was more of an ankle.”
On Daniels' performance
“I thought he did a great job protecting himself, sliding protections… They ran a lot of two-man, so you know, they got two or three holding calls. It could’ve been a lot more. It is what it is. I’m not here to talk about officiating… You know, you get behind in those situations and it’s a little bit more difficult when they’re dropping eight into coverage. We got back into the game, we were in a pretty good position… But I think he was pretty good in terms of recognizing what was going on back there.”
On if Tigers overlooked Texas A&M
“I don’t think so. I really can’t put my finger on it, they’ve worked so hard all year. I think A&M played really well. I thought their energy was great. I thought that their best players played at a high level, made a lot of plays. I’ve singled out this one particular play where we turn it over into a touchdown and it was a big momentum change. We had a great week of practice, guys did a nice job, our preparation 24 hours out leading into the game, we needed more juice and more fire and we just seemed to lack that today and that’s on me.”
On preparing team for Georgia
“We’ve already talked about it and we’re pretty much I would say moving down the road already. They know what happened tonight. They understand our process and what they need to do and what maybe wasn’t done to the level it needs to be done each and every week tonight. But man, I’m so proud of what they’ve done. It’s just so hard to do it each and every week in this league, and we ran into a team that played really well tnight at home, and we just didn’t have what it took tonight, for whatever reason.”
On if the team has overachieved in Year 1
“I don’t want to say overachieve, but I think they have done some incredible things, and I don’t want this loss to at all take away from what they’ve accomplished this year. This is one of the most enjoyable years that I’ve had in my career, watching these kids grow. This was not a step back, this was a bump in the road where they’re going to learn from it and understand how hard it is each and every week in this league, and you have to be ready, especially on the road… They fought, they kept fighting. Yes, I would say that I’m really pleased with what our kids accomplished this year.”